Saturday, September 17, 2005

Wine Spectator Reviews Aussie Reds
The October 15, 2005 issue of Wine Spectator devotes a significant number of its pages to The Best of Australia with sections on

ABCs of Its Wines and Terroir
Great Aussie Reds: 633 rated
Top Hotels, Restaurants

Harvey Steiman provides the tasting reports on Australian wines for WS. In this issue he rates Shiraz vintages from Barossa/McLaren Vale as follows

1999 88 Uneven, drink
2000 85 Uneven, drink or hold
2001 92 Hot vintage, drink or hold
2002 90 Cool vintage, hold
2003 94 Ripe intense wines with impeccable balance, hold
2004 90-94 Clear, pure flavors and open textures, hold

For comparison Parker rates Southern Australia (Barossa/Clare/McLaren Vale/Langhorne Creek) vintages as follows: 2003 a 90 (early maturing), 2002 a 95 (tannic, slow to mature), 2001 also 95 (tannic, slow to mature), 2000 gets an 88 (caution may be too old), and 19991 gets an 88 (early maturing).

While those vintage ratings will probably generate a fair amount of discussion, I was more interested to see what wines had and had not been rated. Steiman notes that he tasted 850 red wines for his report and that 633 were rated. That’s 74.5%, a very high number! But its hard to figure out what defines a rated wine as some have scores in the 70s. According to the WS 100 point scale such wines would be considered average and might have minor flaws. Maybe that is why the subtitle to Steiman’s article Australia’s Big Red Engine is “There is plenty of power coming from Down Under but beware the misfires.” The vintages of the wines rated range from 1999 to 2004 with the majority of wines coming from the last two vintages. When you look through the scores 544 wines received 84 points or better. That’s 64%, still a high number. If you are looking for value in among the points then 192 of the wines (35.3%) receiving 84 or more points cost less than $20USD. Impressively there are 24 wines costing less that $10USD that received 84 or more points. About 1 in 4 of the rated wines receiving 90 or higher.

Unlike Parker’s review of Australian wines in The Wine Advocate there are no tasting notes in the Wine Spectator tasting report on Australian Reds. The tasting notes do apparently exist either on-line or in the Buying Guide in individual issues of the magazine. There are a number of reviews of Australian wines in the October 15 issue. This is a problem with all the tasting reports in the Wine Spectator and says a lot about how the magazine views the importance of a point score.

How did some selected Aussie reds do in the points battle. The two shiraz from Dutschke scored over 90. Only three of the Penfold’s wines scores 90 or better and all are from 2002 (RWT, 707, Magill). Both Torbreck and Two Hands did well with a number of wines in the 90 and above group. But there were also a number of wines that scored poorly. Some examples. None of the Kalleske wines got better than a 89. None of the 2002 Kay’s Amery scored above 89. The Burge Family 2003 Draycott received less that 80 and the Tait Basket Pressed 2002 Shiraz less than 85.

Without seeing Steiman’s tasting notes its difficult to see how he gave some of these wines such low points. The Kalleske’s certainly deserve better. Having just retasted the Draycott one could argue that it is a weird wine, but less than 80 is pretty severe and the Tait is at least a 90 in my book. Still like any list of impressions (which is the value of any point score system) its easy to find scores that are either agreeable or disagreeable in terms of my own experiences with some of the wines. And that is why I certainly don’t recommend anyone place too much faith in the impressions of a single critic.

1 comment:

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